This year marked an increase in wearable technology geared aimed at making our lives safer. Lumenus is bringing their strategy to the game with their wearable vests and jackets that protect joggers and bicyclists from motorists who have difficulty seeing them at night. We talked to Jeremy Wall, the founder of Luminus, to get his insight into the technology behind his products. He offers great advice to designers on making elegant and necessary inventions:

 

Lumenus makes an intuitive LED vest to keep bicyclists safe.

 

We’re seeing a lot of safety apparel come along with the IoT revolution. Yours is billed as the safest ever. How come?

IoT has so much promise right now, it’s really an exciting time to be working in this field! Lumenus is creating advanced performance wearable technologies pushing to enhance our existing understanding and achievement of personal safety. Our starting point is something each person uses every single day—our clothing! Reflective and hi-visibility has served as passive safety for the past 100 years. Lumenus is combining this familiar system, with active lighting but why we feel that we’re creating the safest gear ever is the intelligence behind it all! Lumenus goes further by creating smart active lighting by connecting washable hardware and advanced ZeroUI software that really works in harmony to optimize lighting and maximize visibility.

What kind of hardware is inside your backpack, vest, and jackets?

The hardware really starts from the visual—our embedded RGB digital LED strips. We’ve created a pretty amazing system to keep the LEDs bright, flexible, small, and yet completely washable! The reasons we’re using RGB digital is the ability to have full use of the color spectrum, complete control over animation, adjustable brightness to enhance power management in place, and each LED is individually addressable for full customization.

The battery we’re using is going to be an 18650—which has thus far been underutilized in the world of wearables. Its ability to pack high energy density into a manageable form factor allows for great use in clothing and accessories. On that system we’re creating a proprietary power management system that will give us the best longevity and length of use. Just remove the battery and the system can be washed.

The hardware in the garments are fairly minimal—we kept the majority of the brains of the system in our software! This means that the embedded systems are primarily the Bluetooth Low-Energy chips and some other components that work with our 2-button multifunction keypad. {Plus we can’t give away everything quite yet!}

By keeping the hardware integrated to a minimal level while maintaining high quality of components on the firmware end allows for a high level of functionality and an amazing updatable "future proof" system.

Lights flash as the bicyclist comes to an intersection.

 

You have a pretty cool automated feature: the lights on the Lumenus flash as you pass through an intersection. How did you manage to get that to work?

We’re utilizing the Google Maps backend, this gives us a really great foundation, that already works in 100+ countries! We’ve created a pretty amazing app for iOS and Android that can analyze a ton of data points simultaneously and then push that information directly to your lighting system with almost no latency! We’ve had to overlay some structure on the existing mapping system, but that gives us some amazing opportunities to create IFTTT scenarios! Such as the intersection flash—by identifying road patterns and analyzing different crossroads you can determine hierarchies that pick when that auto-strobe should occur and when it may just be a driveway or an overpass. This has been a really exciting process! We are perpetually figuring out new possibilities and ways that we can have our hardware work with our “software in soft-wares”; that being said, it has been no easy feat. But the ability to continually create better and more advanced systems is one of the most intriguing parts that keeps our team insatiably pushing forward!

What difficulties have you encountered bringing it to market in terms of manufacturing, etc?

It really isn’t an easy feat, we knew that from the outset and our initial prototypes helped us understand this! We are one of the first companies in the world to pair washable hardware, advanced software, and performance apparel into one beautiful package! However, it has been diligent communication and hard work to bring all these pieces together seamlessly as we have.  I’m actually writing this from a ferry on my way leaving Hong Kong on the way to our garment facility currently! We’ve paired with some of the best minds on the engineering side and teams in the manufacturing front to ensure that it all works perfectly together. Having skilled and advanced manufacturing is one of the essential pieces! But we’ve had to create new ways of doing things and completely new tooling, hardware, and other systems that make it possible to make what we’re making. We feel like we’re pioneering the smart-clothing industry and with that advancing the industry of wearable technology!

Wrist LEDs illuminate and signal to drivers.

 

How did you ultimately decide on a wearable instead of an addition to a bike or some of the other wearable concepts out there?

 My background is in the world of Fashion Management and Product Development. It was this foundation of the world of textiles and polymer science that intrigued me. But beyond that wearables are the future of smart computing—it can utilize the system we all know smart phones but be in a form factor we already use every day, clothing!

One of the biggest things is the amount of real estate that you get form being able to spread the tech seamlessly throughout the garment, it’s massive compared to anything else you’d be willing to haul around all day. We can spread out the lighting system so that it really makes a difference from a distance. Meaning that instead of seeing just a bike or flashy light on the road you see a person—a mother, a son, a sister; it creates that human connection.

We see the potential to utilize some of our software through collaborations and other implementations to get this life-saving technology into the market. Lumenus is creating a brand that stands for something and has, at it’s core, a desire to revolutionize the way people view and interact with technology. Smart clothing is our first medium but Lumenus is much more than purely wearables—it’s a platform for the wearable revolution!

What additions or improvements do you plan on implementing in the future?

As previously mentioned, we are stoked about the idea that you will be able to, with a simple tap, update your garment! This software system gives us full control of our visual medium of lighting. We really are giddy about the potential and some of the ideas we’ve already got in the pipeline—but I can’t share everything quite yet. We’re working to really make sure that we launch a solid product on all fronts before moving on to quickly.

That being said, we have already got a roadmap for the evolution of our mobile app in place. For example: you already have call/text notifications on your body without the phone through the lighting. Now imagine being able to just see from the color and animation of a light who is calling, without having to watch a screen? Or the ability to link up with heart rate monitors to directly enhance your personal workout based on our performance pace lighting! Beyond the simple software elements we really see a huge opportunity in where the entire industry of wearables/smart clothing is headed. In the next 5 years we will have an incredible proliferation of IoT enabled devices that will all work together. This is the kind of future that wakes up our entire team every morning with a head full of ideas and a smile! We come into the office knowing that we’re creating something special and excited to be doing it!

Intelligent design is worked into Lumenus wearables.

 

Are there any constraints with BLE or any other design components that you’ve had to navigate?

So far the biggest constraints for the entire wearables industry has been led by batteries… Look at any hardware and it’s the piece that isn’t keeping pace. However, we have been fairly delighted with what we’ve been able to get from our battery—it would just be the biggest ‘limiting factor’ at this point.

The only other piece that we’ve had to navigate carefully is the proprietary methodology for making washable electronics! There isn’t any existing standard for washability yet, to be honest the last thing any electronics would be expected to withstand is a wash cycle (imagine leaving your phone in your pocket!). We are really proud of what we’ve created in terms of handling water, phosphorus, strain, temperature, and all the other torture of a machine wash.

What is your “human centric design?”

This is a concept that is often thrown around, but what we’re creating from the software standpoint is one of my favorite pieces of the whole equation. Predictive turn signals engage, brake lights flash, and pace lighting guides you all without the need for user interaction. As a cyclist myself, it’s easy to see the archaic nature of our hand signals (which most drivers are clueless of and think my right turn hand signal is just me saying “Right On”). I also commute on my single speed—that means my brake is on the left side and by making a turn signal I lose my ability to stop! It’s obvious that technology can enhance our lives, but when technology can permeate into machine learning and our #ZeroUI principles we have something special! Design is core to the Lumenus brand whether that’s the fashion, hardware, software, or how you interact with it we are commited to creating next generation wearable technologies. 

 

Lumenus' current design is available on Kickstarter. Check them out for more info on this applause-worthy product.

 

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